It’s July 4th week, midsummer, and the height of family trip season. You see it all over social media. Smiling, sandy faces, amusements parks, lakes, cousins, and ice cream cones. Behind those photos is a …lot…of …work. Right? I mean as mamas we are still doing our usual jobs, only it’s on the road, which can make it an even greater challenge. No childcare, not the professional kind anyway. No preschool. In a lot of ways, no boundaries.
First off, I’m telling you, I see you. And I feel you. I know how late you were up packing and planning before you even left the house, making sure you could answer for every contingency on the road when tired and frustrated young faces look to you.
I also know why you do it. And why there is satisfaction is pushing through the exhaustion. I know why that glass of wine at the end of a travel day tastes so good. I know why peel-n-eat shrimp feels like a delicacy when it comes after showering your kids off from the beach or pool for the third time that day. I know the joy you can feel simply by exhaling and watching a sunset. Because these places and these times are where the best family memories are made. And they are worth it.
Seems obvious, probably. But to really understand and appreciate it, to get past the bear it can be to take your family on the road, I’ve had to live it a little. Our family just took our third extended road trip from Charlotte to upstate New York. Twice we’ve gone to visit my husband’s extended family and once to both visit family and be in Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
I’d like to think we’re getting a little better at the long road trip, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that a) our 3-year-old is now potty trained and 2) I didn’t feed our 20-month old twins Veggie Straws the whole first day of traveling this time, oblivious to the fact that they were what was causing the poops that were forcing us into pit stops every hour or so. Doh!!!!
This year, I could start planning a week out, not a month. I knew to keep it simple with snacks and snack containers for the car. I kept a garbage bag, papers towels and wipes handy at all times, which cut way down on the inevitable mess stress. A pre-and-post trip visit to the Auto Bell did wonders for my psyche. And once again I was blessed to have an amazing sister willing to come along and give us desperately needed extra hands.
Granted, we still had our moments. Playing in puddles one morning cost us the only three pairs of shoes not packed on top of the car for the day. Hey, let’s go barefoot! I’m not saying we knew precisely where all three of our kids were every single minute of the trip (True confessions. OMG. Can’t think about it too long.) And my Type A tendencies, which tend to magnify on the road, don’t always go over well with my husband. We had a couple of blow-ups.
But it was all worth it. Because not only did we spend quality time building bonds with family members my boys don’t often get to see, we have seen such a difference in our boys since we got back.
They seemed to grow up so much just in a week’s time. My 3-year-old, Wade, slept in a big boy bed for the first time on the trip and has done great with it ever since. My youngest (by a minute) twin son Wes, my little peanut, is saying so many new words, interacting more, and crying less. His twin brother and my middle son (by a minute) Johnny, can drink from a water bottle, eat spaghetti off a plate, and prefers taking Wade’s hand to mine walking from one place to another.
The boys seemed to grow closer to each other, too, which is even more noticeable now that we’re back home. They entertain each other longer at meal times and get along better in the car. They want to play together more, and they do it better. My tendency is often to split them up, to divide and conquer, but since we’ve gotten back, I’ve been trying to find ways to keep all three together.
I feel like I’ve grown closer to them too, especially the twins. As a twin mom you never feel like you get enough time for either or both of them, especially when you’re at home trying to accomplish four things at once. On the trip, I got more time. My husband did all the driving, so that freed me up to spend most of my car time sitting between the twins in the third row of our minivan. We don’t allow them screen time yet – we’re trying to wait until they turn 2 – so interaction with Mom (and snacks) was the best way to keep them entertained. Miles melted away singing “Open Shut Them,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus.” We played peekaboo, read stories, and counted our fingers and toes.
I shared a bedroom with the twins too, which I hadn’t done since they were breastfeeding babies. Early mornings were ours alone, and they were nice, even if it meant predawn wakeups punctuated by a little voice – or two – saying “Mama!” as somebody popped up in his pack-n-play.
My husband and our 3-year-old Wade have always been close but bunking up in a pair of queen beds in their own hotel room throughout the trip gave them a new and special bond. Not only was it fun to see, it took a lot of pressure off me because Daddy had to deal with all the mind games Wade tends to dish out at bedtime. It was like having the week off.
Every trip every year is going to bring its own set of variables and a host of new challenges. In no way do I think I’ve got this whole thing licked. But for our trip to New York 2019, I can say this: we made it there and back safely, we didn’t have a single potty accident, we made a bunch of memories, and we still wanted more time together after we got back. I’m chalking that up as a win.